We need to move our bodies in a optimal pattern so that we when move our bodies everyday we aren’t doing any harm and not wearing out any of our joints. This is known as good posture and good movement patterns.
It is so important to learn how to move correctly. We are all born with the ability to move properly but as we age and become lazy we find short cuts. These shortcuts can lead to poor posture and eventually injuries. If you have ever taken part in a manual handling course, it helps to high light how we should move.
You need to learn how to protect your back most importantly. Learning good posture is hard to do from a book you really need to get someone (trained professional – personal trainer, pilates instructor, physiotherapist) to help you here. This is well worth the investment.
Good posture is key to performing any movement.
Shoulders should be under your ears – with your chest out, shoulder blades brought together usually in a back and down motion, pelvis is in a neutral position with good lower back curvature (lumbar spine) while activating your core (like a corset) to keep your back supported especially when you are lifting something up like your shopping, picking your child up (or grandchild) or lifting weights in the gym. There is a lot going on here that is why you need a trained professional to show you how achieve good posture.
Make sure to square off before picking something up, what is meant here is do not twist to pick something up. Come in front of the object, keep your back in a neutral position, bend your knees and lift with your legs not your back. Think of your back as being made from a string of 24 bones called vertebrae. The spine is divided into 3 areas
1. Cervical vertebrae (the top 7) – run from your skull to the bottom of the neck.
2. Thoracic vertebrae (middle 12) – attach to your ribs, so where you have a rib you will have a thoracic vertebrae – from the top of your back to your last rib.
3. Lumbar spine (lower 5) – goes from your last rib to the base of your back. This is generally the area that gets injured most.
To prevent injuring your back when lifting something up try to keep your back in a neutral position aka your back from hips to head should not move (your 24 vertebrae should act as one). If your back breaks (a bend or a curvature) when you are picking something up you have weaken the strength of 24 bones working together and most of the weight that you have just picked up is now going through one of your vertebrae instead of the whole string of 24. Your back works best when it can distribute the weight between all 24 vertebrae and your legs not just one single vertebrae on its own. The problem is vertebrae breakdown from overuse. In our teens and twenties we get into lazy bad habits with our posture, as the back and body has not been overused and still function optimally (we are still young there is no pain) As we age, our body with this poor lazy posture can start to breakdown and pain occurs (remember – pain is our bodies way of communicating with us that something is wrong). In our thirties and forties one day we can twist and pick something up like a pencil from the floor and your back just “goes” don’t be fooled into thinking it was picking that one pencil up, its been your lifetime of lazy poor posture and lack of training (keeping your back strong) that has led to your injury.
When lifting anything up (lifting weights- in the gym) it is really important to maintain a neutral strong posture. When doing a squat, deadlift, a clean, snatch, bent over row, shoulder press, carrying a load over head or any exercise where you are carrying a load. It is really important to keep your back in the best possible position.
What is the best position to keep your back in? I call it strippers pose – always think “stick it out!” chest out, bum out. By sticking your bum and chest out you are holding your spine in a neutral position. A neutral position ensures that any weight being carried is evenly distributed through all the 24 vertebrae; this is essentially to prevent injury.
If you pick a weight up in an “ugly” back” position (rounded back) the weight generally ends up going through one vertebrae. This is not what we want; if you constantly lift in an ugly back position you massively increase your risk of injury. You can get away with poor lifting technique but it will catch up on you eventually, (remember picking the pencil up off the floor). Unfortunately by then it will be too late as you will have done the damage, prevention is better than cure. Learn to get your back in a good position.
When learning how to get your back in a good position it’s not done using mirrors etc. you need to feel it, remember it and then put it to memory. It is your nervous system that is responsible for this. The best thing to do is to spend a session or two doing deadlifts with a professional. They need to get you into strippers pose (chest out, bum out) once there you need to feel it and remember what it feels like to be in that position. Then you need to lift so that you learn to maintain neutral when a load is involved. This can’t be done with a mirror as you can’t see everything and this is why a professional is needed.